Fiction, Philosophy, Romance, Short Stories, Women's Fiction, Young Adult

Ten Books-At-A-Glance

Here are 10 other books I’ve read recently with their 1-5 Star ratings on Goodreads. None of them made great impressions on me, but I still found the ones with 4 stars enjoyable. The biggest surprise was Someone To Wed, by Mary Balogh because the female main character was such a pillar of strength, despite her challenges. The biggest disappointment was the advanced copy (available Sept 20) of Lucy By the Sea, by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Elizabeth Strout. It is about a divorced couple co-habitating during the Covid pandemic. Personally, I think it is much too soon for a story on this subject. If you’re interested in any of them, I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.

Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

Nora Goes Off Script, by Annabel Monaghan

It’s very satisfying when a book lives up to the hype! I’m happy to say that with Nora Goes Off Script, by Annabel Monaghan, mission accomplished.

After her too-good-for-work husband leaves her swimming in debt, cable channel script-writer Nora Hamilton has some choices to make. Fortunately, her marriage collapsing has also turned into a story idea for the best script of her life. The studio even wants to release it to theaters and film it on location at her historic home.

Unfortunately, actor Leo Vance (former Sexiest Man Alive,) is also at a crossroads. Refusing to sell his soul to Hollywood’s materialistic labels, Leo offers Nora one thousand dollars a day to stay at her house for one week after shooting wraps. Nora has bills to pay, so how can she refuse? But what is in it for Leo? He wants normal, which means eating pancakes with Nora and the kids, following her around the grocery store, and drinking coffee each morning on the porch.

It’s a silly premise and there are a couple of predictable steamy scenes, but it works. The book is an absolute delight. A combination of philosophical and frothy, Nora and Leo are the puzzle pieces missing from each other’s lives. His interaction with the kids and the town’s bucolic setting is very cute, a testament that you just never know what Life has in store.

9/10 Stars

Fiction, Young Adult

Theme: Forced to Grow Up Too Soon–Two YA Novels

As much as I cringe at some of the things young people are exposed to these days I must admit, there are some excellent Young Adult novels out there. “Young Adult,” or “YA,” meaning aimed at ages 13-18, where the main characters are navigating high school, first loves, decisions about the future, and parents. Yes, parents, because it is around that age that you come to terms with the fact that parents are not perfect, not using any sort of a rule book, and many of them are pretty messed up. I appreciate stories that show young people whose parents are divorced or suffering from addictions and mental illness, where the child is forced into an adult role at an unfair age. It happens all too frequently in real life, and young readers need characters with whom they can identify.

IF I FIX YOU, by Abigail Johnson tells the story of sixteen year old Jill Whitaker. She lives with her dad in the heat of Arizona, spending all her free time at his car repair garage. Her mother is gone, with only a sticky note as a goodbye. As often happens, we don’t realize how good or bad we have it until there is a viable comparison. This comes in the form of Daniel, the new next door neighbor, who is dealing with a volatile mother and some serious scars, inside and out. As Jill tries to assemble the pieces of her life, she also finds herself wanting to make things better for her new friend.

Overall I liked the book a lot. Jill and Daniel’s friendship is very sweet as they confide in each other, sitting up on the roof at night swapping words of support and advice. Her father is wonderful, a great contrast from her narcissistic mother. My only criticism is part of the ending, which did not follow the path I would’ve chosen. But that’s my own personal feeling. Jill is a good character who is dealing with a lot and still manages to keep her feet on the ground. 9/10 Stars

THE LIBRARY OF LOST THINGS, by Laura Taylor Namey gives us a glimpse into the life of Darcy Wells. Darcy Jane Wells–bibliophile, introvert, and super student with a near photographic memory. She can recite Shakespeare and knows children’s books from start to finish. Her afternoons are spent at the Yellow Feather, a used book store owned by a cranky boss who shares the building with his ex-wife. Not ideal, but Darcy loves it. It is better than being home, where her compulsive-shopper mother has filled their depressing apartment with everything under the sun. Only Darcy’s room remains untouched by her mother’s illness. Fortunately, there are some bright spots in Darcy’s life. Her best friend is the brightest. And there’s someone new, a quiet boy named Asher Fleet.

I really loved this book. It was a “couldn’t-put-it-down” 24 hour read. Poor Darcy, only seventeen years old, dealing with her mother’s compulsion, her father’s absence, bills that need to be paid, and decisions about college. But good things happen to good people, and the conclusion was extremely satisfying. 9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Young Adult

Last Summer Boys, by Bill Rivers

“Don’t you ever do anything to make somebody feel like their life is no account to you, hear?”…”Yes ma’am…” “It’s the worst thing you can do to a person.”…”Worse than killing them?”…”It’s a kind of killing,” Ma says. “A killing of the soul. Don’t you do it.”

Summer 1968. The Vietnam War is raging. Sons are going off to fight and not coming home. The thought of losing his big brother, Pete, is more than 13 year old Jack Elliot can bear. His plan? Make Pete famous before he turns eighteen at the end of summer. Famous boys don’t get drafted, right? And, if they do, they get cushy assignments until the fighting is over.

Jack is our narrator and he, along with Pete, 16 year old Will, and their visiting cousin, Frankie, turn their weeks together into a summer to remember. They test the limits of each other, the elements, and their ever-patient parents. They react to the chaos of the late Sixties, conforming or rebelling as you would expect from growing teenage boys. Even in their rural Pennsylvania town, the reality of things escalating is inescapable.

Through it all, plus run ins with bullies, neighbors, and cute girls, the four boys stick together, supporting each other through thick and thin while experiencing their own growth.

This is a fantastic novel, appropriate for everyone, with special significance to those affected by that time in history. Every character is deep and multi-faceted, with his own inner turmoil and moral compass. I highly recommend it and look forward to others by this author. (Available free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.)

9.5/10 Stars

Children, Fantasy, Young Adult

The Ogress and the Orphans, by Kelly Barnhill

I know a book is excellent if its effects are still lingering days after I’ve finishing it. Few have accomplished this as much as The Ogress and the Orphans, by Kelly Barnhill. Is it for kids? Yes. Is it for young adults? Yes. Is it for grownups? Yes. Yes, yes, and yes. It’s for everyone. If I could buy up a bunch of copies and pass them out on a street corner without looking like a weirdo, I would.

There is the Ogress. She has no name. She has no family. She has no friends. She cannot read. She has a great desire to belong. She has magical talents that benefit others and, even in her loneliness, she is compassionate and generous.

There are the Orphans. They have names that follow the letters of the alphabet. They are cared for by the Matron and her husband, Myron. They read and research. They closely observe. They are each other’s family.

There is the town, Stone-in-the-Glen. Once a lovely place where neighbor helped neighbor, it is now rundown and full of unhappy, suspicious people. Legend says it all began when a dragon burned down the library. Now the only bright spot is the colorful Mayor. He loves all and all love him.

What makes this book so special? What makes it a treasure for readers of any age? It is so layered with important messages that everyone will glean something from it. The writing is magnificent. The characters will remind you of someone you know.

Read it. Share it. Learn from it. Remember it. It’s marvelous!

10/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Nonfiction

Amazing Surgeons: Two Books

Two books: one nonfiction and one fiction.

Two doctors: a pediatric neurosurgeon and an embittered heart surgeon.

One goal: save the patient.

I always say that books seem to enter our lives at the right time, and these two are no different. There is something special and similar about them that made me feel they needed to be grouped together. I highly recommend both.

First, ALL THAT MOVES US, by Jay Wellons. Dr. Jay Wellons, to be exact. An experienced pediatric neurosurgeon with decades of operating and teaching experience, this is his memoir and love letter to the profession. We follow him from patient to patient, those that he saved and those he couldn’t, year after year. As expected, certain patients stand out and have left imprints on his heart. The writing is excellent and his humility is admirable. Be prepared for some detailed medical explanations, but it is never boring. A great, timely autobiography. 9.5/10 Stars

Next, WHEN CRICKETS CRY, by the incomparable Charles Martin. I truly believe Martin is one of our greatest living novelists, and I’ve only read four of his books with many more left to discover. It is, perhaps, a minor spoiler to identify the main character as a surgeon because he spends most of the story building and restoring boats with his brother-in-law, Charlie (who deserves his own book.) But whether he is known as “Reese Mitch: boat builder” or “Jonathan Reese Mitchell: heart surgeon extraordinaire,” he is still a lonely, broken man. When Reese meets Annie, a little girl selling lemonade who is ill and wise beyond her years, he must ask himself if the time is right to emerge from his shell of grief and uncertainty and tap into his incredible gifts. 9.5/10

Romance, Young Adult

Three Heartfelt YA Novels

Recently I joined a fun online book group! We do Bingo boards, read-a-thons, and scavenger hunts, all of which have pushed me out of my comfort zone. Young Adult novels are very popular with this bunch, so I’ve read a few lately.

These three are my current favorites.

PLACES WE’VE NEVER BEEN, by Kasie West brought back some childhood memories. Two families go on a road trip together after one family moved away a few years before. The kids all have their favorites, but Norah’s and Skyler’s friendship has been reduced to liking each other’s Instagram posts. (Boy, do I feel old.) Norah is excited to see her friend again, but Skyler is distant and apathetic. Only by communication, forgiveness, and working through misunderstands will they repair the friendship. 9/10 Stars

TELL ME THREE THINGS, by Julie Buxbaum is a novel I was introduced to by our book group admin, who is a connoisseur of the YA genre. I LOVED IT. It’s like a teenage You’ve Got Mail (oops, dated myself again) and I was completely swept away. Jessie is mourning her mother’s loss and adjusting to a new school, new state, and new step-family. An online friend introduces him (or herself) as “Somebody/Nobody,” offering to help Jessie navigate high school, with its angst and cliques. Is it a joke? Or can this person be trusted? Over time, Jessie and “SN” confide in each other more and three different characters become candidates for the anonymous friend. The story is extremely sweet with a great ending. 9.5/10 Stars

WHAT I DIDN’T SAY, by Keary Taylor is my favorite of the three, only slightly edging ahead Tell Me Three Things. After a horrific drunk driving accident, Jake Hayes’ vocal cords are irreparably damaged when a post goes through his throat. One of seven kids in a boisterous, loving family, Jake will never talk again. Back at school, his longtime crush, super student Samantha Shay, becomes his tutor and close friend. Sam has secrets of her own. She’s getting thinner, sadder, and more detached. Together, Jake and Sam help each other, filling in the gaps in the other’s life and creating an unbreakable bond. Did I mention how much I loved this book?? And Jake’s family is awesome. 9.5/10 Stars

Author Spotlight, Fiction, Romance

Author Spotlight: Emily Henry

One cannot read an Emily Henry book without laughing out loud. Her biting wit and highly intelligent characters have created quite a following these past few years. Her female characters are educated, funny, flawed, and often make life decisions that…could be better. The men are often sharp and closed off, but with great potential when the right woman comes along. The banter between the sexes usually evolves from scathing and competitive to civil to friendly to more. The steamy level is medium to low, but there is some steam in every book.

BEACH READ, published in 2020, is my favorite of Emily Henry’s three contemporary novels. It’s promoted as a rom-com, but there is actually a lot of depth to this story. January Andrews, a romance writer in a slump, learns about her father’s infidelity after his death. She inherits a beach house he used for his affair, planning to sell it. While cleaning it out she discovers that her neighbor is literary giant, Augustus Everett. He was also her rival in college. They strike a deal to stir up their creativity. January will write a dark, brooding book in Gus’s style and he will write a romance. The first one who sells their book is the winner. There is some wonderful dialogue with unexpected depth. 9/10 Stars

PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION, published in 2021, follows the “friends to more” formula. Poppy and Alex are best friends. She is a travel writer who now lives in New York. He is a high school teacher who stayed behind in their Midwest hometown. They have little in common except a shared history that’s lasted decades and their annual vacations together. This year the destination is less exotic Palm Springs, California. Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. But those challenges bring out some hidden feelings too. Again, great characters. 8.5/10 Stars

BOOK LOVERS, Henry’s 2022 novel, introduces us to literary agent Nora Stephens. While coddling one of her writers into meeting a deadline, she has to deal with a new publisher, Charlie Lastra, known for his no-nonsense approach. Nora agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, the setting for her client’s books, hoping to cultivate some ideas. She takes her pregnant sister, Libby, and they discover that it is Charlie’s hometown. In addition, he’s there helping his family through some hard times. Seeing him in his natural setting, with old friends and family, changes things. Very cute. 8/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Magical Realism

The Matchmaker’s Gift, by Lynda Cohen Loigman

AVAILABLE September 20, 2022

Right now I’m experiencing a combined euphoria and frustration that only happens when I’ve finished a book that is so good, I wonder if I can do it justice. Even explaining what The Matchmaker’s Gift is about does not come easily, but I know it is about things that mean a great deal to me, personally: family, ancestors, tradition, connections, intuition, and a bit of the unknown.

In two brilliantly woven story lines we learn about Sara and Abby. Sara is an immigrant in the early 1900’s. Crammed into New York tenement housing with her traditional Jewish family, she learns early on that she has a gift for matchmaking. A gift that borders on the supernatural. This does not bode well with the community matchmakers, a bullying group of stodgy men who care more about profit than people. Add to that, the fact that Sara is a young, unmarried girl who demands no fee. Most importantly, she is never wrong.

Fast forward to the 1990s. Abby is Sara’s granddaughter. An attorney who works in family law (i.e. divorces and prenups,) Abby has grown up listening to her grandmother’s stories and imparted wisdom. Jaded by her parents’ divorce, her father’s broken promises, and continual office drama, Abby’s expectations for love are pretty low. Thankfully, her innate sensitivity and relationship with her grandmother sustain her.

When Sara dies and leaves Abby several notebooks for her to read, the parallels begin. Side by side we see a young Sara and Abby, the struggling lawyer, navigate a harsh world that is all about the bottom line. Both crusade to improve their own little corners, rallying against others who think they know better. They have their allies, their obstacles and–through a special gift–they have each other.

The more we learn about those they help, the more we see that thread that binds us all. I even found myself making guesses about which characters were destined for each other. “A lid for every pot,” as Grandma Sara would say. And, speaking as someone who met her future spouse in the most unlikely way in 2009, you just never know.

Mark your calendars for September 20 when this book becomes widely available. It’s a gem.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced copy.

9.5/10 Stars

Technology

Kindle Models: Let’s take a look…

Coke or Pepsi? Apple or Android? Kindle or Nook? (Answers: Pepsi, Apple, Kindle.)

Now that that’s settled–WHICH Kindle? Since I’m currently between two advanced copies of books, let’s take a quick look at these snazzy little e-readers. Amazon doesn’t reinvent the wheel too much when it comes to the Kindle (since getting rid of the keyboard and adding an internal light) but there have been some upgrades in the last year.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Budget
  • Resolution
  • Size
  • Need for a waterproof device (i.e. Are you a clumsy tub reader? Do you read by the pool and have kids that love to do cannonballs?)

My desire to spend was low when I upgraded in 2020 from my 2012 Kindle Keyboard (RIP) to a smaller one with a built-in light. I opted for the Basic Kindle (on the far left.) I chose to have no ads (ads only show when it’s powered down, but still.) And I chose black because I wanted as little contrast as possible. I have a slim, third party cover in Sky Blue, found HERE. (Make sure the cover matches the Kindle model you’re purchasing.)

Now, my middle aged eyes are not the best these days. Still, the resolution on the basic model suits me fine (for now). I adjust the brightness based on the light around me and appreciate the different font and size options. (Sorry paperbacks, this is where you get left behind.)

A simple breakdown of the models. Not including the Kindle Kids Paperwhite.

Currently, the Kindle Paperwhite is the most popular Kindle of all time. It has a flush screen, smaller bezels, 300ppi resolution, and it’s waterproof. A link is HERE and, if you scroll down on that page, you’ll find comparisons and links to all models. Remember that an Amazon account is required to manage the titles on your Kindle. Just like a smartphone, there is a cloud for titles not downloaded. This means that, even with only 8GB of space, you can have HUNDREDS of books in your library. Speaking of libraries, you can also borrow ebooks from your local library, which is just the best thing ever. *wink* (How I would’ve loved a Kindle when I was a child!)

Here are two videos that discuss the different models. Remember–take into consideration what is best for YOU. Hope this was helpful! Happy Reading!

Fiction, Young Adult

A Quiet Kind of Thunder, by Sara Barnard

It’s always unexpected to find a book that speaks to you on a very personal level, but that is how I felt while reading A Quiet Kind of Thunder, by Sara Barnard. And, although it is a Young Adult novel that explores much of the angst all teens experience, it is so much more.

Our narrator is Steffi Brons, age sixteen. Steffi has crippling social anxiety. Crippling to the point that she is a selective mute, which makes her an interesting choice as narrator. Steffi taught me a lot. For one thing, the word “selective” does not mean that the person selects when they do or don’t talk. On the contrary, she wants to talk, especially when the alternative is getting stared at and bullied. It’s her anxiety level that chooses when she speaks. Anxiety is not rational, but she’s usually OK with her family, best friend, and boss. But parties? Shops? And, Heaven forbid, school? Big N-O.

Steffi is fortunate to have some anchors in her life. Her dad is patient and kind. Her friend, Tem (September,) is her advocate and cheerleader. Her mom? Not so much. Speaking as someone who has anxiety (to a much lesser degree but still very real,) little victories are to be celebrated and pushing usually has the opposite effect. “C’mon, Steffi…just try harder…” Well meaning but definitely not helpful.

As a child, Steffi’s uncle suggested that she learn BSL (British Sign Language) as a way to compensate for those times when communication was necessary but speech was not forthcoming. This skill makes her the prime candidate to be paired up with Rhys Gold, a new student who is deaf. Rhys is friendly, outgoing, and fairly adorable.

Yes, you can guess correctly that Steffi and Rhys go from classmates to friends to more. But that does not make the story predictable. At the heart of everything is communication, its variations, its inclusiveness, and its means as a tool to validate people. Whether it’s speaking, signing, gesturing, writing, etc.–it connects us with others. And, in some cases, it isolates. The story is also about Steffi’s growth, her wavering confidence, the kind of support she gets, and its importance.

I loved this book. It has the language and sexual experimentation that you would expect from a contemporary Young Adult novel about teenagers and first love, but the explanation of anxiety is SO on point. I rooted for these two and appreciated the fact that there was no ridiculous drama, just the normal ups/downs/questions that we have at that age. A wonderful discovery that touched my heart.

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Suspense

The Water Keeper/The Letter Keeper/The Record Keeper, by Charles Martin

Beyond the comfort of our iPhones, Kindles, and smart TVs lies a grim world that we rarely, if ever, think about. It is the world of sex trafficking. Flesh for sale. If you’ve read Timothy Ballard’s Slave Stealers, which I highly recommend, you also know that it is one of the largest, fastest growing, most lucrative, horrifying industries on our entire planet.

These are not hardened women or shiny gigolos. These are children as young as five or six years old. Some are stolen, some are lured. All are deceived, sold, or auctioned off to the highest bidder. In the eyes of their captors they are simply chattel. A means to an end. A dollar sign with terrified eyes, but easily replaceable.

When I applied to read an advanced copy of The Record Keeper, by Charles Martin, I had no idea what lay ahead, yet I felt compelled to read the first two books in the Murphy Shepherd series before tackling the final installment. Little did I know I would be discovering an amazing author and a series that will stay with me forever.

Think of the novels as a jigsaw puzzle. The Water Keeper keeps those puzzle pieces relatively scattered, but organized enough to motivate the reader to pursue the second and third books. Our main character, Murphy Shepherd, is broken yet heroic. He is solitary but part of a network. He is spiritual but a man of action. Lots of action. He is also covert, compassionate, philanthropic, and mysterious.

But, above all, Murphy is selfless. His mentor, Bones, chose and trained him because of this specific quality. The person to be rescued is always, ALWAYS the first priority. Exhaustion, hunger, and even gaping wounds come second. We see examples of Murphy’s drive and skill in The Water Keeper. We also meet important characters whose lives will intertwine with our hero in the future.

In The Letter Keeper, we learn more about Murphy Shepherd’s backstory. More of the puzzle pieces come together with each rescue. We understand what drives him, his greatest loss, and his ultimate catharsis. Humble man that he is, even Murphy doesn’t realize the extent of his positive influence.

Last in the series is The Record Keeper, due out in July 2022. Before a shepherd is needed to rescue the sheep, there is the wolf that first endangers them. This wolf is the worst of the worst and he sold his soul long ago. But to pursue him we must first understand him. How did he become that way? There are always reasons.

I will admit, I had to take breaks with this series. It is intense. It is also beautifully written in an old-world style that forces our imaginations do all the work. The way Charles Martin is able to craft such a bleak underbelly of society without graphic language or vulgar scenes shows his genius. He creates a brilliant balance of darkness and light. I highly, highly recommend these three books and very willingly give them a rare 10 Stars on this site. They are worth your time.

10/10 Stars

***It is impossible not to feel helpless when reading about this subject. Please take a moment to visit “real-life Murphy Shepherd,” Timothy Ballard’s site Operation Underground Railroad. They always need donations to fund their worldwide efforts to bring children home. Thank you.

Fiction

The Library, by Bella Osborne

Sometimes a book speaks to you so much that you have to crawl inside it at the risk of anything else you had planned. That is what happened today with Bella Osborne’s The Library.

Since childhood I’ve been a sucker for stories about unlikely friendships, especially when it is an adult and a child who meet on equal terms with mutual respect. Roald Dahl was a master at this and I’m certain it was his books that made me love this type of plot. Catherine Ryan Hyde achieved it recently in Dreaming of Flight, but I think I like the different characters’ voices in The Library even better.

Tom is an awkward, sensitive teenager. His mother died when he was young, his father drinks, he gets bullied at school, and the future looks bleak. The only shiny part of his life is Farah Shah, the luminous girl he likes from afar. On a whim he seeks the sanctuary of the local library, using it as a safe connection to his late mother, and clumsily exits with a bag full of romance novels. In doing so he happens upon a mugging. Widowed seventy two year old Maggie is pretty scrappy but she is, after all, seventy two. Tom’s rescue attempt, besides rewarding him with a black eye, sets a new friendship in motion.

It begins with weekly chats on Saturday at the library. For the first time in a very long time Tom feels seen. He feels validated. Unlike his struggling father, Maggie is easy. She’s not fussy, demanding, or judgemental. Just easy. Easy is nice. Plus, she finds Tom interesting, with great potential, and an old soul. Over time, as you would expect, Tom and Maggie come to rely on each other, filling the gaps in each other’s lives.

The Library isn’t really about the library, although it does act as a secondary character. Instead, it reminds us that the local library brings people together with the common goal of stepping outside their worlds and into the imaginative adventures that only books can provide. Books have no demands except that you love to read and give them a chance. It’s unconditional. But finding that kind of love from a living, breathing friend? Even better.

I adored this book. The characters feel so real. Tom’s teenage hangups, dreams, and expectations are right on the mark. Maggie–on the other hand–is wise, quirky, and more forgiving after years of dodging Life’s curve balls. Together they make a marvelous pair.

The Library is available for free digital reading with an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription or only $5.49 to purchase. I highly recommend it.

9.5/10 Stars

P.S. If you want to see a film that has a very similar, sweet friendship, I recommend Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, with Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend. Also wonderful.

Fiction

Two by Boo…

I was hoping to read Boo Walker’s Red Mountain Chronicles series before adding more of his books here, but since that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the wondrous An Unfinished Story (2020) and The Singing Trees (2021.) What really lit a fire under me was seeing a Facebook post this morning where he talked about “killing his darlings” (scrapping 8000 words he just wrote–ouch) and starting over. It was this unsolicited admission of a writer’s blood, sweat and tears that reminded me of his character, author Whitaker Grant, in An Unfinished Story, and I knew I had to add these today.

An Unfinished Story: Claire Kite is attempting to reassemble her life after the death of her husband, David. Among his belongings, she discovers his final, unfinished manuscript. In an effort to give it the ending it deserves, Claire seeks out disillusioned writer, Whitaker Grant. Whit is suffering from “one hit wonder” syndrome. His debut novel was an instant success that became a hit film, but the pressure has crippled him from writing anything else.

The plot is unique, the twists unexpected, and the ending wholly satisfying. Both Claire and Whit have something that the other needs to put the pieces of their lives back together. Only by getting to know each other, as well as unlocking secrets about Claire’s late husband, can the unfinished story take flight.

I gave this book 5/5 Stars on Goodreads, but I’m not going to rate it here. Between Whitaker Grant’s personal angst and the real author’s willingness to share his process with the rest of us, I feel it would be unfair. Let me just say that An Unfinished Story is a beautiful book that I highly recommend.

The Singing Trees: Maine, 1969. Annalisa Mancuso has just lost her parents in a car crash and is living with her grandmother. She has artistic aspirations, but the town of Payton Mills is suffocating. She’s talented and determined to make her way to the thriving art scene in Portland. What she doesn’t expect is the impact that Thomas, an Ivy Leaguer, and his troubled younger sister, Emma, will have on her plans. Like flipping magnets, these three are drawn together and pushed apart over a series of years.

As other reviewers mention, The Singing Trees addresses love in many forms: family, friendship, and romance. Some of that love is healthy, some is toxic, a lot of it is self-sacrificing with lasting consequences. There is betrayal and redemption with lessons learned by all. Another winner that I highly recommend with 5/5 Stars on Goodreads.

Visit Boo’s page: http://www.boowalker.com/

Fiction

Five Quick Reviews:

Currently I’m working on reading the Murphy Shepherd series by Charles Martin, which is marvelous. It’s slow-going because they are so full and so well-written. In the meantime, here are 5 quick reviews of some books I’ve read recently. The rating is based on the Goodreads 5 Star system. Happy Reading!

Available June 7, 2022

The plot of this book reads like a semi-modern Les Miserables. There were many things to like, but it was also a bit too saccharine–like a Hallmark Movie–especially the ending, which is slightly ridiculous.

Available now (on Kindle Unlimited)

Oh, Jake and Kassie! This story was beautiful and unique and had some wonderfully heartfelt moments. But, alas, there were some scenes, language, and horrible characters that detracted. If those were stripped away, this one would be a 5 Star book.

Available now

This novel’s characters reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre and Rochester in a current setting. There’s even a scene near the end that mirrors the classic almost word-for-word. The 3 stars are just because it was a tad bland and, if you are a Jane Eyre fan, you’ll see right through it as not completely original.

Available now

OK, NOW, we’re talking literature. Charles Martin books– how have they eluded me until now? The Water Keeper is the first in the Murphy Shepherd series–the story of a broken man who has the wits, skill, and resources to help others. The writing is beautiful and the story has a little of everything: action, humor, romance, depth. Plus it is incredibly touching. For those who shy away from fiction, you’ll feel differently after this novel. Book 2 is The Letter Keeper, available now. Book 3 is The Record Keeper, due out on July 5, 2022. More on this series in a future post.

Available now

Part of Your World is a new book and it’s already incredibly popular. I read it as a mental palate cleanser after The Water Keeper. I loved the premise of a 38-year old lady ER doctor from the city and a 28-year old burly small town carpenter trying to find a way to merge their different worlds. But I wish I could take a giant melon baller and clean this book up. Alexis and Daniel are wonderful characters and the majority is very well-written, but there is a lot of language and some scenes that take away from its potential greatness. A shame, really, because I’d read a cleaner version again and again.